Dr. Pierre Thibaudet had to admit, he felt very good at having figured out that mystery. Given what limited sources he had, he was amazed that life had made it possible for him to solve that problem. On the one hand it was good to know how the condition came aboard the ship. On the other, it also helped him better understand Dr. Frederick Anselm's role in all of this. Since he was a Hasmonean, that indicated that he was probably aware of most of what was going on to begin with. Secondly, it probably also meant that lycanthropy was not a manmade condition. That was a startling fact to realize, but how could he further deny it? He had pegged all of his insight onto Darkwolf having been tricked by Anselm into taking some formula or serum that would cause the change to the wolf form. Of course, Anselm denying it had hardly done anything to convince him he was wrong. It had only been when Darkwolf had shown up, dressed oddly, with the Ship's Engineer in tow. Seeing Darkwolf, a very interesting character, one whom he found a sort of affinity for, he had to conclude that he had been wrong about a great many things.
One of those things was that Anselm was a liar.
Thibaudet grunted at that realization. Anselm had been telling them the truth, at least in part. It seemed that he was not going to openly lie to them about anything that could be proved a lie. That at least was reassuring. Perhaps he had a good reason not to tell them what his orders were? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. It was more likely that he was afraid of what he and the others would do if they knew his orders. His orders could very well be to kill them. He said that nobody would die, but then again, he might be lying about that. Still, he hadn't lied so far; at least that Pierre could tell. He certainly did not want to have to do anything to that man. Despite how frustrating he could be, Anselm hadn't really done anything yet.
Of course, there were other consequences that were far more dangerous. The absolutely worst possible one that he could think of was the fact that Kilpatrick had received no help in becoming a werewolf. It had been natural to him. It had just been a part of him, and had probably been part of him a long time. While it was possible that he could have been given the serum to cause him to change like that, it seemed more likely that he had just been born that way, or had contracted it from another werewolf.
Loup garou. They were real. Thibaudet shuddered as the old legends came back to mind. How many things had he heard? How many things had his parents told him when he was young had he shrugged off? Just what had he let his skeptical mind forget that could be vitally important now? There were so many conflicts in the stories, could they all be true? Or was there a single path to the real loup garou. He found that word more real to him than werewolf. The werewolf was a popularized title in the culture; it was more of an icon for an idea than a reality in and of itself. Loup garou were real. He had seen them; he had almost touched them; he had been on several occasions only hair's breath away from becoming one himself. They had a history, a past, and most likely a future. They were hidden things, creatures that obscured themselves from the view of humanity. They did not dare let themselves be found out.
Now it was too late. Certainly rumors would have made it to the press by now. Pierre hoped the Space Force was keeping a tight lid on all this, he'd hate to think the media panic this would cause. How does one look at all the history and build up of the scientific world, and all of its accomplishments, and then take a look at the equally real werewolf and try to put the two together? How could one fit in culture? It seemed impossible to even conceive what was going to happen. He hoped that everybody was allowed to live out there lives with minimal burden. He did not want to see Rhodes locked away for the rest of his life in an observation room, to be taken out periodically and have samples taken of his blood, his flesh, his brain tissue, or whatever the doctors and scientists wanted for their notebooks.
Dr. Thibaudet took a quick breath of air, slowly exhaling, feeling the brush of the breath past his teeth and lips. He was trying to calm himself. The realizations that were coming to him, the possible consequences of all their actions stretching farther and farther into every aspect of life were all colossally staggering. How could one man such as he cope with it all, or possibly comprehend what it all meant? He certainly did not think of himself as any sort of genius. His specialty was in low temperature physics. More specifically with super conductors, though he had dabbled with superfluidity for a brief time. He never expected his research to amount to much, perhaps help his team possibly get the Nobel Prize for physics. Individuals never won that award anymore, no one individual could. The last sole person to win that award had been fifty years ago. Since then, it was always groups of scientists working together to unlock the more complex and complicated fields. He wondered if that meant anything.
He glanced at Dr. Anselm, sitting in the dirt, his eyes closed, and his back to the wall. His arms were lying limply in his lap, and his palms were upturned. He did not seem to take enough time to defend himself. It would be very easy to kill him now; he would not be able to move fast enough. Of course, such thoughts were born from frustration. Anselm was not actively trying to kill them; at least it seemed that way. He at times did seem genuinely concerned for their well being. Despite himself, he found his earlier frustration and absolute conviction to kill him slipping away. Something had to be done; he would have to talk about what he had done. There was no question to that. However, Anselm was not going to respond to death threats. That much he knew already.
He sighed; just what had been planned in all of this, if anything at all. Perhaps Anselm had only been sent to observe what was going on. He was a psychologist, or so he claimed. If that was all he was doing here, observing, then Pierre could understand why he wasn't going to tell them anything, because as an observer, he was not supposed to get involved in the situation. That was of course quite difficult considering that the werewolves were not going to make any distinction between him and anybody else who was worried about it. Of course, Anselm was right about one thing. They did not seem to be likely to die. That much was reassuring. If Tembo had indeed been dead, but now was alive as a werewolf because he had been injured, then that was all the better. That meant that everybody who had been killed by the werewolves was also alive. Who was dead then? Well, Ascot and Lapwolf obviously were, but probably nobody else. The three scientists who had not made it to the Greenhouse were probably also alive, growing fur, fangs, and claws at the moment. Of course, that made the chances that they were going to escape slimmer, but still at least they would be alive, in some form.
Then again, what were the social repercussions of this entire affair? Would the loup garou be allowed to live amongst ordinary humans? If so, would special laws be enacted that protected their rights and stipulated that they had to be confined on nights of the full moon, subject to arrest and trial for all acts of crime committed while on those nights? Or would they be given a sanctuary, some place in the woods where they could all congregate and live without hurting others? Both were feasible options, but he was sure that there were complications involved wit each. He wondered what it would be like knowing that your neighbor got furry and howled during the full moon. It couldn't be any worse trapped in a spaceship full of them. How could a parent with small children react? Would a werewolf in the neighborhood bring property values down? What exactly was the legal status of a loup garou when they were a wolf? What would the major religions say? How would the Catholics, the church that he had grown up in, react? So many questions and no answers yet. Of course, he was sure that he was not the one who would have to come up with the answers.
Thibaudet looked about the room at the rest of them present. Handley was slowly coming awake. Her whole face was still white, and her hands trembled when they moved. McGee was meditating once again, his face contorting every once in a while for a brief moment. It was as if the wolf was taking his face over at those moments and trying to twist out a snarl at the rest of them in the room. It was almost like a warning of things to come. The four Shapeshifters were congregated about the middle of the central field, talking amongst themselves. They were being very quiet, too quiet for Pierre to hear what they were saying. Dr. Emil Jansen was sitting a few feet away from them, idly listening in. Lieutenant Lucille Penny however was pacing back and forth, her face ashen but her eyes thoughtful. It appeared she was holding back a storm of her own. She was trying to do something, but he did not know what. Perhaps it was best to ask her?
Having nothing better to do, Thibaudet rose to his feet, and walked over to the nervous engineer and put a hand on her shoulder, "What's bugging you?"
Penny sighed, "I don't know what to do. It seems like everything I think of can only end in jeopardizing the lives of everybody here. I don't want to do that."
"You don't have to do anything, just stay here and wait for Captain Harper to come rescue us. That was Captain Rhodes's plan."
"Well I'm not Captain Rhodes, and I don't want to stay cooped up in this place for too long. I think a few people in here are going to go stir crazy before that. Like you," Penny said the words with a level icy voice. Thibaudet knew just what she was talking about. He grimaced at the memory of what he had nearly done to Anselm. "I am leaving you with your gun only because Rhodes gave it to you. If he trusted you enough with it, then I will too. Still, I want to get us out of this room and back in control of this ship. I just need to figure a way to do that."
Thibaudet nodded, "Well, what have you got in mind so far?"
"Not much so far. I don't want to kill the werewolves, I don't think I could short of ejecting them out of the airlocks. However, one thing I can do is confine them. Right now they have the run of the ship, but if we could hall by hall block them off, we could confine them to one part of the ship without fear of them getting out. Then we could be waiting for Captain Harper looking nice, for once. Some here could get some sleep, you look like you need it."
Thibaudet nodded emphatically. It had been a long time since he had gotten any sleep. He'd tried shortly after launch, but he kept getting interrupted by something or other. Of course he would have gotten more if he'd bothered to climb back up on the bed when he'd fallen out. Still, he did not feel like he could sleep. Who could, when any moment the werewolves could find out how to open those doors, or manage to sneak through the ventilation shafts and be upon them? If that happened he'd like to have a good chance to start running. Of course if that did happen, they were probably all dead. Still, a running start would be very nice.
"I'm not going to be sleeping until we get back to Earth."
"Very well then, but I'd still like to give those who want it a chance to sleep without worry."
"So, how do you plan to seal the loup garou off?"
"Well, I can't from here. I need to get to a computer terminal. If I can get to the bridge, that would be ideal, then I could reroute the communications console into the security office computers and be able to find the werewolves and seal them where they are. However, I need to get to a computer first. However, the bridge is the best bet, but it is a long run, and I don't think I want to try it yet. There has to be something we can do to make it safer. I'm the only one left alive who knows the codes, I can't let myself be killed," Penny explained, her face hard, but forcefully so. It seemed like she was not usually used to doing this sort of thing. He wondered if she had ever been placed in a command position before. Most likely, it was probably standard training. However, he doubted that she had much real life experience with it. Of course, almost nobody had any experience with werewolves, especially during the full moon.
"As you said, there has to be a way to do it. Any ideas?"
"Well, I considered having all of us try to make a break for the bridge, but that would only mean a lot more people would be werewolves, and not much point in that now is there. I could probably make it, but I'm willing to bet that half of us would get picked off in the run. There are too many of them now, and from what I've heard by talking with McGee, it seems like they are learning how to plan." Her eyes went distant. "If they were stupid beasts, that would be one thing. These creatures aren't stupid. They are almost as smart as we are."
"These creatures are your former crew members," Thibaudet pointed out.
Penny lowered her head, her voice catching for a moment, "I know. I hate it, but I know it is true. I don't want to hurt them. But then again they might be screaming on the inside for us to kill them and spare them this pain and torture. What if they want to die? What do I do then?"
"Have they told you they want to die yet?"
"Then you will do what you have to and what you think is right. You want to save everybody's life? Great, that's what I want to do too. Let's see if there isn't someway that we can get you to the bridge without getting anybody else killed." Thibaudet gave her a smile, staring into her face, trying to comfort her. She nodded, smiling back, patting him on the back and gently massaging him on the shoulder with one hand. Pierre found the gesture oddly familiar, but there was no telling what she meant by it.
"What do you suggest?"
"Yes you, you don't see anybody else that I'm talking to do you?" she smiled at him winsomely, and he sighed.
"Well of course not!"
"So what do you suggest?"
"I suggest we first find out if there is anyway that we can distract them. There is somebody here who knows something about werewolves. If we ask the right questions, perhaps he will crack," Thibaudet suggested, though he was sure that he sounded more sure of himself than he really was. It was more likely that they would come to an answer themselves through talking to him than he would give an answer to their questions. Still, it couldn't hurt to try, as long as he kept his temper under control.
Penny nodded thoughtfully, glancing at the apparently resting figure of Anselm and then back at him. "Do you promise to keep that gun in your holster this time?"
"Of course. I will let you threaten his life this time," Thibaudet winked at her. She gave him a little nudge and then turned to face their quarry. Anselm popped open one eye as they approached, his whole body slowly coming back to wakefulness. He regarded the two of them through half-opened eyes for a moment, his arms still lying limply in his lap. He yawned once, deep and long, and then stretched his arms out to either side as Thibaudet and Penny sat down in the grass before him. Pierre noted a sliver of sunlight starting to peep in through the glass on top. They were slowly making their rotation; soon the entire room would be bathed in the sun's light. Of course, the dome of the Greenhouse filtered out all the harmful rays of the sun, just as the atmosphere of Earth did, but it still conducted lots of heat. It was barely protected enough to withstand the blast of a sudden solar flare. A big enough prominence would give them all radiation poisoning within hours. That was a grim reality that he did not want to have to deal with. The rest of the ship was much more secure, the bulkheads being over a foot thick of just insulation against that sort of thing, but the Greenhouse was designed to let most lights in, and sometimes it just couldn't stop them all.
"What can I do for you two?" Anselm asked in a sleepy voice, the words blurring together as he spoke.
Penny gave Thibaudet a sudden glance before beginning. Pierre kept his mouth shut; he was not going to interrupt her, not after a warning glare like that. "I was wondering if you could tell me everything you know about the werewolves."
Anselm looked at Thibaudet and shook his head, "Trying to get others to ask the same questions now are we? What, do you think I'll crack if everybody asks me?" Thibaudet wanted to poke the man in the foot with a sharp object, but didn't say anything.
"Just answer the question, Dr. Anselm," Penny advised. "It will be easier on us all if you don't waste time like that."
"You want to know whether I can tell you everything I know about the werewolves, correct?" Anselm asked again, rubbing his eyes with one hand.
"Well, I could tell you that, but then I'd be breaking my orders."
"So you aren't going to tell us?"
"That's the unfortunate truth," Anselm replied dourly as he looked dreamily into her face.
Penny tapped her finger to her chin, giving Thibaudet another look of warning. Pierre wished she wouldn't do that. She was rather nice looking when she smiled. Her frown however, made her look ugly for some reason. It did not appear to be a natural expression for her face.
Penny then leaned forward a bit, rocking back and forth on her legs. "Dr. Anselm, I am glad to you are so dedicated to your duty. However, I have my own orders, and I am just as dedicated, perhaps even more so. My duty is to save the lives of the people on board this ship. I am trying to do everything I can possibly do to facilitate this. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Anselm nodded, "You have an obligation to save our lives. I appreciate that, and I'm sure that you will perform capably."
"Yes, I intend to. Now, to fulfill my duties, I am obligated to know everything I can about every possible danger to me or my crew. Now that Rhodes and Kilpatrick represent a danger and are no longer fit to fulfill their duties, I must adjucate them. Do you know what that means?"
Anselm nodded, "Yes I do. It means that you want to know everything about the werewolves as you can."
"That's correct. And you are going to tell me about them."
"And that is where you are wrong, because I am as zealous in my duties as you are in yours."
"You don't have a choice in this matter, Dr. Anselm." Penny pointed out quite coolly. It was amazing how easily she was able to maintain her calm. At this point Thibaudet would have been fuming. He seemed so circuitous at times in his logic that it made Pierre's head spin. Hearing two people use the same sort of logic was more than he could comprehend. He just sat back instead and watched.
"And why not?"
"Because the moment you stepped foot on this ship you agreed to obey all direct orders from the command crew in an emergency situation. This is clearly a state of emergency, and I am one of the command crew. If you don't tell me what I want to know then you will be committing a felony against an officer of the government of the United States of America. Does that clear things up a little bit?" Penny seemed beyond the point of anymore nonsense.
Thibaudet was amazed at that approach. It had never occurred to him to try using the law against Anselm. Not that it would have done him any good, but still, there might have been something he could have tried to use. He was not an expert in the law, but he did know of a few things. None of them were probably useful. Still, he was not going to be too happy if Anselm pressed charges against him for putting a gun to his chest. He did have that legal right, though he seemed disinterested in using it.
Anselm brought his legs up underneath him, now more fully awake. He stared incredulously at Lt. Penny for a few moments, his own face unsure. Pierre wanted to shout for joy at seeing this man actually unsure of himself. "That does bring things to bear doesn't it? Well, I would be inclined to tell you now, but unfortunately, that law does not apply in this situation."
"Because it does not meet the conditions of the law," Anselm replied to her as if he were talking a young kid.
Penny did not seem to care for his tone of voice, "Would you say that this is an emergency situation?"
"Of course it is. When you see people getting cut down by what is popularly considered a mythical creature, I'd say that it is an emergency."
"Would you say that I am a member of the command crew of the Pytheas?"
"Well, then, what's the problem?" Penny seemed very suspicious of him. Pierre wondered if this was how she lost her temper, slowly and invisibly until that final leak had caused the dam to explode. He hoped that she didn't explode on him the way that he had. It was unsightly and only made them look bad to the others. He already suspected that Jansen considered him unreliable, and he knew that he did not have the support of the Shapeshifters. He hoped that Penny would maintain her appearance of authority, because he did not want her to have to assert it publicly. That would just be a mess.
Anselm licked his lips. "Well, you forgot something important. The law that you are referring to, I believe has a clause that states that unless superceded by a higher ranking government official, than you have full authority in an emergency situation. You forget, I am a Hasmonean." Anselm's smirk came back. He had once again shown that his indomitable personality would always win out in the end.
"So what does that mean to me?" Penny asked, no longer so sure of herself.
"It means that technically that I should be allowed to order you about. I do not however, wish to make such demands. I only ask that you respect my right to keep what I know a secret. Trust me though, nothing that I know is hard for you to figure out if you just look at the evidence."
"So you will do nothing to help us?"
"I am not really hiding anything that should be hard for you to figure out. I just don't want to break my own word."
Thibaudet stood up, though Penny shot a dark glance at him, "You are useless Anselm. You might as well not be here for all you've told us."
"I'm sorry you feel that way," Anselm replied to him, his expression not changing.
"So am I." Thibaudet stormed off, though Penny was quick to follow after him. He did not want to let his anger get the better of him again. No matter what it was that Anselm was doing, whether reading out of Fulton Swiley's accursed book or denying them vital information, he always seemed so smug about it. He had had enough of it. He did not want to even risk the chance that he would lose his temper again. This was certainly not the time or the place, nor was it even a very good reason. Perhaps in time Anselm would come around to telling them all his secrets. However, it did not seem likely that he was going to do it anytime soon. He'd probably let them in on everything as soon as all the danger was past and no sooner.
Penny raced up after him and grabbed him by his arm and spun him around, "What's the matter with you?"
"I'm sick of dealing with him. He's not going to tell us anything. I thought maybe we could wear him down, but I don't think he even knows how to flinch."
"Do you know how long it takes to wear somebody down?"
"No, how long?"
"Hours, maybe even days. We don't have that sort of time. Now you better come up with a better suggestion fast. Who knows how long it will take your werewolf friends to figure out how to get in here."
"They are not my friends." Thibaudet insisted, wondering where in the world that had come from.
Whatever it's origins were, he did not have any time to really think about it because there was a sudden crackle of the radio, and a voice clear as a bell, and one that he though he might have recognized came over the transmission. "Hello? Is there anybody on this channel? Hello?"
Penny had her communicator in hand faster than Thibaudet thought possible, "This is Lieutenant Lucille Penny, who is this?"
"I'm Dr. Everett Saltonstall, ma'am," the voice replied confidentially. Saltonstall sounded relieved to have contacted anybody. Thibaudet recognized him now. He didn't know much about the man other than that he Dr. Bowman's roommate, he rarely left his room, and he was one of the three unaccounted for scientists. He was glad to hear that he was still alive.
"Dr. Saltonstall, how did you get this frequency?" Penny asked, her eyes strangely calm.
"I was just searching randomly through frequencies. I have been for the last four hours. I'm so happy that I finally got one right. Ever since those things attacked my door, I've been locked up in my room." Saltonstall was gushing with words, his voice overjoyed.
Penny looked very thoughtful. "So you have a screen in your room?"
"Yes, why?" Saltonstall sounded confused.
Penny looked at Thibaudet, her face beaming. She put one hand over the radio and whispered in the smallest voice she could manage for the level of excitement that he knew had to be there, "I have a plan!"
End Part XXI